“There’s an uneasy feeling that any moment, this pipeline could pose a threat to our way of life. It’s something you have to carry and be wary of all the time, and be ready for,” Archambault told me.
Energy Transfer Partners says their pipeline exceeds minimum federal safety requirements in many instances. Dakota Access “is monitored 24/7 by a control center for pressure, temperature, density and flow changes; has strategically placed valves with emergency shutdown systems; and is inspected in multiple ways throughout the year,” said a spokeswoman for the company.
President Trump cited the pipeline’s completion as a political victory on Wednesday.
“The Dakota Access pipeline is now officially open for business. A $3.8-billion investment in American infrastructure that was stalled. Nobody thought any politician would have the guts to approve that final leg. And I just closed my eyes and said: ‘Do it,’” Trump said in a speech in Cincinnati.
“It’s up, it’s running, it’s beautiful, it’s great. Everybody is happy, the sun is shining, the water’s still clean,” the president added. “When I approved it, I thought I’d take a lot of heat. But I took none, actually none. But I take so much heat for nonsense that it probably overrode the other.”
On the fifth day of his presidency, Trump cancelled the Obama administration’s order that Energy Transfer Partners prepare an environmental-impact statement for the project. The Obama order had also asked Energy Transfer Partners to study alternate routes for the pipeline.
As recently as 2015, Trump owned between $500,000 and $1 million in stock in Energy Transfer Partners, according to the Dallas Morning News. This amount had decreased to less than $50,000 by the spring of 2016.
Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for Trump, said in late November that he divested himself of Energy Transfer Partners and all other stocks in the summer of 2016. But the White House has repeatedly declined to offer proof of this.
“‘The sun is still shining, and the water is still clean.’ For him to say that just goes to show how out of touch and how out of tune he is with the people in his own country,” said Archambault on Thursday. “He’s putting his own grandchildren’s future at risk. But he doesn’t see it like that. He doesn’t see the cost in the future, he just sees the dollars gained today.”
The Standing Rock fight was a rare, high-profile moment for the Native American civil rights movement in the United States, in part because it united climate activists and indigenous advocates behind a common goal. Climate groups like 350.org opposed the pipeline because they disapprove of almost all new fossil-fuel infrastructure; indigenous activists saw the pipeline as another profit-seeking incursion onto their land.
Eventually, the fight seemed to transcend the climate cause, as tens of thousands of Americans showed digital solidarity with the Standing Rock protests. The protesters also reframed the politics of climate on the left: Lakota and Dakota protesters from Standing Rock led a major climate rally in Washington, D.C., this April.